by ehistoryadmin on October 20, 2016

Freemans Journal 21 February 1918



Fought in American Civil War and was a Fenian

The death took place yesterday at 33 Upper Gardiner street, Dublin, of Major Wm. F. Roantree, at one time a well-known figure in Irish politics. He served in the American Civil War, and was later identified with the Fenian movements. He was about as usual on Saturday, and only complained of being unwell on Tuesday.

He was born in Leixlip in 1829, and the fifties found him as far afield as New Orleans, keen on the pursuit of adventure.

A chance encounter with Captain Ellis, “fighting Bob Ellis,” provided a swift solution, and with that soldier of fortune and a force recruited from nearly every country in Europe, he is soon pushing hard through the forests of Nicaragua to bring succour to General Walker, then besieged by the troops of the existing Government. After Walker’s surrender he is back again to the States. Irish affairs began to have more than a superficial interest for him, and Irish affairs in the States were pretty active, even during the Civil War.

In 1864 he was introduced to Lincoln by Colonel Michael Corcoran, of the 69th (New York) Regiment, then attached to the Headquarters Staff, and on the next day Mr. Secretary Seward banded him his commission as Major in the U.S. Army, countersigned by Abraham Lincoln himself.

Major Roantree was in Ireland in 1865. Of his activities here it is enough to say that he was in almost daily communication with James Stephens, then chief of the Irish Republican Brotherhood. He had only left Stephens on the night of the raid on the “Irish People” office in Parliament Street, and was recognised and arrested by Chief Inspector Smollen, who was at the head of the returning party of police, while standing in Dame street. His trial and sentence followed rapidly, and it is to be remarked that he always spoke in favourable terms of Baron Fitzgerald, who delivered the sentence upon him.

After six years spent in Mountjoy, Dartmoor, and Portland, he shared in the general amnesty of Fenian prisoner, and was landed in the United States, for it was not until much later that leave was granted to return to Ireland. He was engaged in the wine trade in the cities of New Jersey and Philadelphia. After his wife’s death, he decided to return to Ireland to spend the remainder of his days.

A few years ago he had reason to complain of interference with his correspondence in the course of post from the United States. The fact came to the knowledge of Mr. Redmond, who took up the matter with the Postmaster-General of the day, and an assurance was speedily forthcoming that the Major would be spared further annoyance of the kind.

Re-typed by Jennifer O’Connor

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